How good are the Netherlands? They blank Italy 3-0, and they pour it on against France, and beat them 4-1. This was the supposed Group of Death, and it is, for teams not named Netherlands. Romania, on the strength of two ties, having not played the Netherlands yet (who will probably rest a lot of players) has a decent shot at the last spot in this group. I hope the Netherlands reserves do beat Romania, because I would like to see the France vs. Italy game count for something. Two great, somewhat aging teams battling it out for a trip to the next round. But that doesn't answer the question I posed originally--how good are the Netherlands?
I'm not sure we know yet. We haven't seem them come from behind yet, and I'm not sure they could. So much of their offense is predicated on quick counter attacks. They strike quickly, make no doubt about that, but without a great goalie in Van der Saar and great counters to Italy pressing after being down 1-0, they win that game 1-0, or tie it or lose it, instead of winning 3-0. Today was much the same. The Dutch went up early, got a little lucky (or a lot lucky) and then countered, and countered and countered. Ruud Van Nistelrooy, who doesn't get a lot of credit for being clever with his feet, was absolutely amazing in setting up the 3rd goal with a endline flick that was either incredible or incredibly lucky. I'm still not sure. Don't let the Dutch score first, seems to be the rule.
Which Germany will show up for their 3rd game? They looked unstoppably Germanic against Poland, with their short technical passes, and blasting shots. Against Croatia, they looked positively Englandish. I would say that Bastien Schweinsteiger ("Swine Climber" in American--I am pretty sure that somewhere in his family tree, he has an ancestor who got fucking a pig) had played himself into a start, but his harebrained red card in the last 2 minutes of the Croatia game negates that possibility. Is it time to sit Klose in favor of someone who can use their feet? We will see.
Sweden vs. Spain. Between the two of them, they beat their first game's competition 5-0. To be fair, those teams were Russia and Greece. They will be the two teams who advance, but this game (today!) will determine who gets the first position, and thus avoids (more than likely) a red hot Netherlands squad, and instead gets the bloodied and bruised 2nd place finisher of the Group of Death.
Turkey vs. Czech Republic. For a trip to the next round. Sometimes, in a round robin of 4, you get these situations. This is one of them. The Czechs looked awful against Switzerland, but won. Looked good against the Portugese, but lost. Turkey hasn't ever really looked "good" per se, but they bring heavy hitting, and a couple of skill players. My money is on the Czechs, my heart is with the Turks.
Barring real fuck-ups, the Germans and the Croats should be focused and beat the teams they are facing (Austria and Poland, respectively). But if either team loses focus, their could be a very embarassing loss here.
We'll pick up on Tuesday, as that's when the big France/Italy tilt occurs, and nothing could stop us from writing about that.